Sheldon Irish's quest for state title goes through Cavemen

Sheldon Irish's quest for state title goes through Cavemen
Receiver Connor Strahm readies himself for the next big play against the Crater Comets. Strahm scored 3 touchdowns in the Sheldon Irish's Homecoming game against the Comets on Oct. 5, 2012.

EUGENE, Ore. - Sheldon Irish offensive lineman Brett Nielson spotted the ball after a blocked punt, and threw his body towards it.

Nielson lay atop the ball in the end zone, and the crowd instantly went wild.

Nielson had opened up the Sheldon vs. Thurston game with a touchdown.

“It was just fun to finally score on them, and get ahead; score quick,” Nielson said, reminiscing on the touchdown - and the blowout win that followed.
 
Stomping on their competition throughout, Sheldon High School has reached their final regular game of the regular season.

After defeating the Thurston Colts 49-8 in Springfield, the Irish are back home in Eugene on Friday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. to play the Grants Pass Cavemen, who beat the Colts 28-23 on Sept. 28.

“All of their games have been relatively close, so we’re expecting a dog fight," said Lane Johnson, Sheldon's head coach.

Going into this match-up, the Irish remain undefeated with an average of just over 47 points per game to their opponents’ 13.38.

“I believe our kids think that" they will go undefeated, Johnson said. "Our kids are always confident. They have a little bit of a swagger to them, which I like. We respect all of our opponents, [but] we would like to finish this [regular season] off.”
   
With expectations high, however, does the Sheldon Irish have what it takes to go undefeated in the regular season?
   
The Grants Pass Cavemen offer up an average of 31.25 points per game, with three wins and five losses on the season. Led by coach John Musser, the Cavemen are ranked 65th in the state.

“I don’t even know what the rankings are,” said Johnson about the Oregon rankings. “I just know that they have a pretty good team, and we’re going to have to show up and block them and tackle them.”

The Sheldon Irish stand atop the state rankings at No. 1, and are 158th nationally.

After losing to Lake Oswego in last year's title game, both teams seem poised to meet again atop the heap.

But first, the Irish must face the Cavemen.

“If we play hard, we will," Nielson said. "If we play fast and low, we can.”